Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The State of Irish Alsatian Relations

For the long car ride back to our house, we made the conscious decision to keep Toby and Callie separated. With Peter's Nissan Patrol, this was a simple matter of putting Callie in the way-back and Toby in the backseat. She often sat with her head hanging over the back seat, but Toby tolerated her well. I can only imagine that his little doggy brain was telling him that if he ignored her, maybe she would go away.

After we got home, our first order of business was to take them to the field next door for a romp. Toby tore around the field in giant circles, racing with wild and ecstatic abandon. Callie hung close to us, tentative and unsure. Her sister was gone, replaced by this smaller, furrier, faster stranger.

Back inside the house, the first several hours were chaos. Four house guests. One additional dinner guest. One slightly confused and put-out existing dog. One very confused and uncertain new dog. One exhausted and frazzled Ann. One exhausted Peter.

Toby and Callie were getting on okay. They'd sniff each other and would often bump into each other as they made their way around the house, jockeying for the attention of our many guests. I had some doubts about bringing a new dog into the house when we were entertaining guests, but I think it made it easier in many ways. We had a village to help us introduce Callie to the house rules and to make sure Toby didn't fall victim to the Shiny New Toy Syndrome.

Peter decided that the best way to deal with the introduction of Callie was to let the dogs work things out themselves. When I heard a growl or snarl, my inclination was to scold; but Peter thought it better to let things play themselves out.

After dinner, we retired to the sitting room. I was sitting on a desk chair with wheels, which was brought out because we had more people than seats. I put it on the only bit of carpet we have in the house, a throw-rug in front of the fireplace. Callie laid down on one side of me and Toby laid down on the other. When Callie stretched out and got comfortable, her head ended up on Toby's paw.

He looked at it quizzically and then looked a way. His paw was stretched out in front of him, so his head was a good foot away from her head. After about fifteen minutes, his curiosity about this new creature got the best of him. He leaned forward and began sniffing Callie's head, which was not a well-received move.

Callie showed her teeth first, then added a growl, then snapped, then jumped up and lunged at Toby. The resultant scuffle caused people to grab their wineglasses and try to safeguard the items on the coffee table. It was over in seconds and both dogs were fine, although Toby was rather rattled.

The problem with Toby is that we suspect he wasn't very well socialised with other dogs when he was a pup. As a result, he's pretty much a social retard when it comes to dealing with dogs. He doesn't know how to read their body language or predict what's going to happen. He doesn't know when to back off.

Toby spent the rest of the evening avoiding Callie. The morning was a new day and the dogs were back to tolerating each other. Two incidents in the late afternoon broke the fragile peace. There was a scuffle in the doorway, when both dogs tried to go through at the same time. The small row knocked over mops and brooms in the laundry room and even put a crack in our dustpan.

The second was worse, a full-fledged fight. Each dog was given an apple core. Toby gobbled his down and moved on to Callie's, because she was still sniffing it and deciding what to do. (She is the most deliberate, slow dog I've ever seen.) I didn't see exactly what happened to start the fight, but I gather that Callie took offense to Toby moving in on her food and went for him. It was a tumble of dog bodies. At one point, Callie seemed to rear up on her back legs, then take Toby down like a WWF wrestler. We intervened and got the fight broken up.

Toby was fine - no blood or injuries. He was seriously freaked out by Callie though, probably because she had him pinned to the floor in about two seconds. He spent most of the rest of the evening hiding under the kitchen table or behind the legs of a person and growling at her if she came close. I took him into the living room for some quiet time alone on the couch.

Sunday was a new day again, as was Monday and today. It seems that a detente has descended. The dogs tolerate each other. We're feeding them in separate rooms, so fighting over food has not been an issue. They can walk down the hall next to each other without growling or snarling.

When I got home from work yesterday, Peter was out with our guests, so I was alone with the dogs. I hadn't yet tried walking both of them on leashes by myself, but I really wanted to get them into the field for a romp before it got dark. I feared there might be some aggro, since walking on leads would require them to be in very close proximity to each other. They got on fine, though. The trickiest part of the whole endeavour was getting the field's gate opened with two excited dogs in hand.

Watching them in the field is quite interesting, but perhaps that's a post for another day as this one is already way too long.



At 25 November 2008 at 08:38, Blogger The Boisterous Butterfly said...

I think you're handling it fine. Eventually each dog will find its place in the social hierarchy and things will settle down. It will be better once your guests are gone and clearer for the dogs. Letting them settle it between themselves as much as possible is good, barring terrible fights, of course. You handled that very well. It seems that Callie is going to be the top dog. Make sure she doesn't become the mistress of the house.

At 25 November 2008 at 08:42, Blogger Babaloo said...

Glad they seem to have reached an understanding. They will be fine, trust me, as long as both dogs know you humans are the boss.

Honey didn't take to Jack being now part of our family very easily. And she's a very gentle, playful dog who normally gets on well with other dogs - until they get too close. And Jack was too close for a while. But now they usually get on fine. I hear the odd growl but that's just when one is encroaching on the other's space. A growl is usually enough of a warning sign for the other one to back off.

I love having two dogs in the house, although we didn't consciously look for a 2nd dog. But somehow it is more balanced.

I'd love to see how you go for a walk with your two big dogs on a leash, though. :) I'm struggling sometimes when our two get excited and it's evening and I have the torch in the other hand. (No lamps beyond our little row of houses and I don't want to break my ankle by stepping in a pot hole.)

At 25 November 2008 at 12:55, Blogger laurie said...

not too long! i avidly read every word. it sounds complicated but like it's going to work out. i've only introduced puppies to existing dogs, never full-grown two-year-old adult dogs. so this is uncharted territory for me.

poor toby. they're going to have to work out who's top dog. though my understanding is that "top dog" position generally shifts back and forth constantly when the relationship is good.

good luck! walking two dogs on a leash is challenging. especially dogs of those size.

At 25 November 2008 at 14:42, Blogger Kaycie said...

I'm with Laurie, I'd have been happy with more.

This is definitely going to be interesting. Someone told me once that female dogs like to rule the roost. That seems to be the case at our house. It works out just fine. Jack lets her think she's the boss and does whatever he wants when the urge hits. ;)

At 25 November 2008 at 15:03, Anonymous Vicki said...

As I'm about to add my third greyhound after losing Princess to cancer Labor Day weekend, I read this with fascination. I've been pretty successful at adding dogs to the house, but greyhounds generally accept other dogs, especially other greyhounds. Females do tend to take the boss role. Like everyone said, as long as she understands people are always the boss over dogs, this shouldn't be a problem, as long as Toby doesn't also want the role. Good luck ! My additional issue is the extra cats running all over...

At 26 November 2008 at 05:22, Blogger -Ann said...

TBB - yes, you can't let a 60+ kilo dog run wild.

Babaloo - You should get a headlamp. Peter bought one for his photography trips (going out before sunrise in remote areas can be tricky). I use it when I walk the dogs in the dark and it's great - light without hassle.

Laurie - I'm sure they'll be grand. It seems like the relationship improves a little each day.

Kaycie - You could add four more dogs before they out-numbered people in your house. :)

Vicki - So sorry to hear about Princess. I'll what to see pictures of your New Dog. I don't think Toby's going to want to be the boss - being the boss gives him anxiety and behaviour problems.

At 27 November 2008 at 09:15, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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